The warm weather of spring and summer are usually a time when pet owners turn their attention to fleas, but what you might not realise is that by continuing your flea prevention throughout the entire year you can actually help reduce the likelihood of a flea outbreak when the sun finally decides to come out from behind the clouds during spring and summer.
The warm and humid weather is a flea's favourite time of year and they can be a tough enemy to fight if their population has been slowly multiplying throughout the winter months. The adult flea can even survive for up to a year without feeding on an animal.
With six strong legs capable of leaping, it's easy for fleas to move around but also to hide in your dog or cat’s fur, your carpet, bed sheets, in cushions, soft furnishings and even in house plants. Female adult fleas live and lay eggs on your pet. These eggs then fall off and remain protected in the dirt, cracks and crevices of your house, in pets bedding or in your carpet, where they hatch into larvae.The flea larvae feed on debris and develop into pupae, which can lay dormant for up to 3 months (that's the whole of winter!). Once the right environmental conditions appear they hatch into new adults in as little as 19 days in warm and humid weather, and then start feeding and reproducing.
So what can you do?
Firstly, it's important to treat your pets and their environment all year round to prevent fleas. Just because you can't see the fleas doesn't mean they aren't there. 'Flea dirt' or flea droppings are detected more easily than the flea itself and can be seen on the skin over the rump and back – they look like black specks of dirt.
Another way to check for fleas is to comb through your cat's coat onto a white sheet or piece of paper that is moist – when wet, flea droppings turn red as they contain the blood ingested by the flea as it feeds.
Symptoms of scratching, inflammation (reddening of the skin) and dry, scruffy patches over the base of the tail are also signs that fleas are most likely present.
Fleas can also spread tapeworm which can then be transmitted to humans. So you must treat your cat regularly with a TOTAL CARE Worming paste or tablets.
Step 1: Treating and preventing fleas
Purina TOTAL CARE has numerous products available to control fleas on your cat, but for maximum effectiveness you can contact the Purina PetCare Advice Team and they will recommend the best products for your pets' specific needs.
- TOTAL CARE Flea powder for dogs and cats can be applied once or twice a week to the environment (such as bedding)
- TOTAL CARE Flea control collars for cats can control adult fleas for up to 5 months.
- TOTAL CARE Spot-On Flea Control for Cats and Kittens is a 3 monthly treatment and very easy to use. This product kills the larval stages in the pet's surroundings and also contain an insect growth regulator (IGR) to control all environmental lifestages.
Remember never use a flea product designed for dogs on your cat, the effects can be serious.
Step 2: Controlling Fleas off your pet
With many cats living solely indoors treating of your pets environment is crucial in preventing a flea infestation as the majority of the flea population (95%) exists as eggs, larvae and pupae in the environment. This may include in the dirt, cracks or crevices of your house, in your pet's bedding or in your carpet. Here is a list of products that can be useful when dealing with a flea infestation in your home:
- Flea bombs, foggers and mists for your house, which contain insect growth regulators (IGR’s) and can provide up to 12 months protection . These can be purchased from supermarkets. Please ensure that you cat is removed from the environment when using these products.
- Yard sprays or rinses can be applied to specific areas in the home and outside, including kennels and most contain insect growth regulators. These can be purchased from many hardware stores
Use with CARE:
Some insecticides are poisons and product labels must be strictly adhered to. Young, sick, pregnant and nursing animals may be more sensitive to flea treatments, so please consult your veterinarian prior to using a flea treatment.
KEY POINTS to remember
- Never use a dog flea product on a cat. Many flea products for dogs are toxic to cats e.g. permethrin (check the label)
- Some products cannot be used in kittens under 3 - 4 months of age
- Natural alternatives are available –they can still be toxic and may not be as effective
- Remember to treat all pets in the household at the same time
- Regular grooming and washing of your pet's bedding is also important
- Your vet can also help you plan the best control for your pet.
About the Purina PetCare Advice Centre
The Purina PetCare Advice Centre brings together a team with in-depth knowledge, experience and special interests with the skills to advise about health and nutrition, behaviour, training, socialisation, as well as basic first aid for your cat or dog. Our team of dedicated pet lovers can also provide information about Purina products and services to help you give your pet the best possible care. If you've got a question about any aspect of pet care, then ask the Purina PetCare Advice team.